x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Republican Convention: who spoke and who didn't

With prime-time television coverage limited to one hour for each network a night, there has been significant press commentary devoted to who will be giving the major addresses. Our columnist James Zogby reports live from Florida.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa last night.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa last night.

After a 24-hour delay, the Republican Convention began last night, competing on prime-time television with Hurricane Isaac as the evening's major story.

The delay forced party officials to juggle speaking schedules, but the line-up of featured speakers remained virtually untouched.

With prime-time television coverage on the main networks limited to a mere one hour each evening, there has been significant press commentary devoted to who will be giving the major addresses. As much attention, however, has been given to the list of speakers who have been given less prominent roles and to those who have not been invited to speak to the convention at all.

Among the "not invited" are most of those who ran against nominee Romney during this year's bitter primary contest. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, members of the US House of Representatives, along with Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry will not be speaking. Only Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty will make appearances at the podium, though not during prime-time.

There will be a "video tribute" to Ron Paul, but it remains to seen whether this will mollify the angry "Paulites" who are seething over credential challenges that have "unseated" many of their delegates, rules changes that will make it more difficult to compete in 2016, and seating assignments that have left Paul delegates from Maine, Nevada, Iowa and Minnesota banished to the convention hall's "nosebleed section".

Tensions among Paul's supporters are high. A near fist-fight broke out during a Rules Committee meeting earlier yesterday and Paul delegates could be heard booing on the convention floor when the decision of the Rules Committee was announced.

Former President George W Bush will not be there. His remarks to the convention will be seen via video hookup. Former Vice President Dick Cheney wasn't invited. In fact, the only member of the Bush cabinet invited to speak is Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.

There will be benedictions offered by Christian and Jewish clergy. A Sikh will also offer a prayer. But no Muslim has so far been invited.

Last night's programme featured the political party's "rising stars", including seven new governors, capped off by major remarks by Ann Romney, whose role was described as presenting a portrait of the "real Mitt Romney", and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who fired up the faithful with his well-known feisty wit. Both speeches had a few quotable lines but were at times delivered a bit too quickly since they had to be completed by the 11:00pm network deadline.

What was especially noteworthy is the huge number of "minority" speakers listed in the overall programme. From 9:00-11:00pm during the three days of the convention, fully one-half of those scheduled to address the convention are African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American Republicans.

What makes this so significant is that today's Republican Party is more than 90 per cent white, with the percentage of white delegates here at the convention even higher. This reality clearly makes Republican leaders uncomfortable because they know that they must increase their share of Hispanic voters and maintain an edge among suburban white voters - both of whom would be turned off by an all-white line-up.

James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute (www.aaiusa.org and @aaiusa)